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Linking living plant traits to soil biogeochemical functions in ecosystem patches under different land use regimes using an isotope-based assessment


Nitrogen cycling is an important aspect of ecosystem functioning and global change. Plants affect soil N cycling through a series of direct and indirect mechanisms. It is therefore essential to understand how human-induced shifts in plant communities modify soil N cycling. One emerging approach to assess these links is by expressing vegetation data based on the functional characteristics (‘traits’) of the plants that make up an ecosystem. In this study, four different land use patches under different historic and present land management within a regional landscape will be selected, and characterized according to their plant functional diversity. Living plant, but not soil effects, on gross N cycling and microbial community structure will be determined using root-permeable cores filled with a common soil, and installed in the land use patches 9-15 months prior to isotope-based N cycling measurements. Statistical RLQ analysis will be used to investigate links between plant traits and biogeochemical ecosystem functioning. The innovative nature of this project lies in the combination of state-of-the-art methods and concepts in plant ecology and biogeochemistry that complement each other in a multi- and interdisciplinary framework. This is achieved by integrating expertise of two research institutions that share a common research interest in global change ecology, but each have a very different conceptual and methodological background in the complementary scientific subdisciplines of plant ecology (outgoing host) and biogeochemistry (return host). The proposal contains a 2-year training period to learn and apply the use of plant trait approaches at one of the worldwide leading institutes in trait-based ecology (Multidisciplinary Institute of Plant Biology, Córdoba, Argentina). The acquired skills and knowledge will be disseminated through several mentoring and tutoring mechanisms at the return host institution (Laboratory of Applied Physical Sciences, Ghent, Belgium).

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Sint pietersnieuwstraat 25
9000 Gent

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Vlaams Gewest Prov. Oost-Vlaanderen Arr. Gent
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Administrative Contact
Saskia Vanden Broeck (Ms.)
EU contribution
No data